Nights at the Neptune is a summertime series of free performances put together by Seattle Theatre Group and The Neptune Theatre with support from Artist Trust. They finished out their season with Imana Gunawan’s extravagant cabaret, Moonshine. With a star studded cast of Au Collective members including Randy Ford, Cheryl Delostrinos, Devin Muñoz, Fausto Rivera, and El Nyberg, the evening combined stunning costumes by Hallie Scott and fabulous live performances from musicians Dante “DaQween” Johnson and Emma Lee Toyoda.
The evening kicked off with live video manipulation by Anissa Amalia and a killer sound score by CarLarans. Fausto Rivera was the first performer to grace the stage, dressed in an immaculate long pink skirt and fringe headdress. Rivera’s control was impressive, especially with the fringe covering his eyes. His repeated movement pattern of fast spins and balances wouldn’t necessarily be memorable under normal circumstances, but watching him navigate these steps without his sense of sight was intriguing. Similar moments of navigation occurred throughout the evening, like when Muñoz and Rivera negotiate a duet with balloons attached to their shirts, or Delostrinos sensually drifting above and below a long piece of white fabric as it’s manipulated by Ford and Muñoz. These moments conjure up images of resilience; their confidence seems to say Despite the mayhem of the world around us, we own what we do with the obstacles in front of us. Scott’s costuming also hinted at a distinction between the red, fiery passion of “DaQween” Johnson and Ford vs cool-toned, beige-y and pensive Muñoz and Delostrinos. The performers in red displayed an outwardly directed strength, facing nay-sayers head-on. The dancers in cooler, muted tones performed as if asking to be seen as observers of the self, not the world. These subtle color choices reflect the bigger conclusion that overcoming obstacles may not look the same for everyone.
The real star of the night was Toyoda’s second performance. They sang, “… don’t have genders and neither do I,” in an impassioned, powerful outcry (with perfect pitch). Guitar in hand, wings on their back, and a fierce grunge-inspired sound, they captured the voice of a community. The audience cheered and whooped. “DaQween” Johnson also delivered a stunning performance with Ford sharing the stage. No matter what she does, Ford’s movements are felt to the bone, filled with confidence and humor. Whacking, tutting, and a melding of textures (from sharp and direct to a spirald, fluid and airy) Ford both mirrored the intensity in DaQween’s prose and found moments to oppose it. Talk about ownership; in both of these moments, there was no choice but to be in total awe of the power these individuals have.
In a pre-curtain speech Gunawan encouraged audience members to cheer if they liked something, to feel enabled to talk or grab a drink during the show. Encouraging the audience to participate, as well as the catering from That Brown Girl Cooks! before the performances, invited the audience to experience the evening as themselves, not just audience members. The whole night was curated to be a fun opportunity to indulge in our community, and it did just that. -Liz Houlton